Angry Centre wants OTT platforms to ‘only’ ban Hindu-phobic content

The Centre is likely to issue a ‘negative list’ of don’ts for OTT platforms like Netflix and Hotstar


In the past week there has been a lot of noise around online video streaming OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar among others. Citing an uptick in ‘Hindu-phobic’ content, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry is likely to issue a negative list of don’ts for online streaming platforms.

The negative list has prohibited the use of content which disrespects the national emblem or national flag, promotes child pornography or intends to outrage religious sentiments.

The apparent nail in the coffin was the Netflix show Leila which riled up Hindutva organizations such as RSS and VHP for showing the Hindu religion, customs and rituals in a bad light, apart from terming it as ‘Hindu-phobic’ propaganda.

An unnamed member of SanghParivar said, “It represents ancient Hindu concepts such as Aryavarta and Shuddhikaran as oppressive and dictatorial, suppressing women and restricting their reproductive rights. Nowhere in Hindu scriptures will you find such an occurrence, which is why we raised concerns about the series being defamatory and insulting,”

Solanki had also complained about American comedian Hasan Minhaj’s show Patriot Act in which he offers his commentary on various global and US-centric issues, apart from his views about the political and social situation in India.

Not only Leila, it is even the extremely popular Sacred Games that has found itself to be the ire of the BJP. Delhi BJP spokesperson TajinderBagga had filed an FIR against Sacred Games director AnuragKashyap for “intentionally hurting Sikh sentiments”. Bagga was referring to a scene in the show in which actor Saif Ali Khan, who portrays a Sikh cop, takes off his Kada and throws it into the sea. Not only that, the show is also said to insult the Guru-shishyaparampara in its portrayal.

Ghoul, another Netflix series that depicts a dystopian future where Muslims are persecuted by a fascist Hindu state, shows the Indian Army in a bad light claimed the Hindu Jagruti Organisation, ruffling the feathers of right-wing Hindutva supporters.
Visual of Ghoul Netflix Series

A local non-profit group, Justice for Rights Foundation, late last year filed a case against Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hotstar for showing sexually explicit content and demanding a regulator for online content, its founder Satyam Singh said.

Currently, there are as many as 9 PILs against the alleged ‘anti-Hindu’ and ‘anti-National’ content pegged by these shows. In May, the Supreme Court had also issued a notice to the Centre to regulate the content featured on these OTT platforms.

What the Law says
While film and TV certification bodies already moderate public content in India, the country’s laws do not allow censorship of content on OTT platforms.

A government official said there was also concern about disparity in how some content appeared on different mediums. Smoking scenes in Bollywood movies on Amazon and Netflix in India, for example, do not carry the mandatory anti-tobacco textual warnings.

On Monday, rumours of top Netflix executive ShrishtiBehlArya meeting the representatives of the RSS had floated. Asked about the same, Arya, who is director – International Original Film, India, Netflix, dubbed the story “fake news”.

She said, unlike storytelling, the law of the land is not subjective. “The law is the law. It’s not like, ‘I don’t like you, and so I’m going to stab you.’ Whatever is permitted by the law, we would go into those spaces and the rest is all about the stories that creators want to tell.”

Three years ago, the RSS had established the BharatiyaChitraSadhana with the objective of promoting a “Bharatiya” narrative across cinema and television, urging filmmakers to make short films and documentaries on Indian culture, values, folk art, Hinduism, national security and nation-building. In the last few months, representatives from the BharatiyaChitraSadhana have been reaching out to filmmakers and scriptwriters to promote this Hindu-dominated narrative.

What the Big Question is
Netflix, Amazon and other platforms don’t just portray content that tilt towards depicting a particular religion in a certain way. Shows like the The Young Pope, Spotlight, Supernatural, The Handmaid’s Tale depict Christianity controversially.

Why is the Centre not calling for a ban on these shows?

Why is the majority only out to protect its own culture? Does the protection of the culture of the minorities not mean much to it?

The big question is – Can the Centre be secular in its bans?

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